3 Key Principles of Search Engine Strategy

    February 11, 2003

It’s not hard to find good information on search engines… the hard part is telling the good information apart from the bad. Some of it is old, some of it is wrong, and a lot of it is just self-serving propaganda for someone’s product or service. My first commercial site, Website Promotion Central, boasts top rankings for very competitive keywords like “website promotion.” It’s become the 3rd most popular website promotion resource, according to DirectHit.

Achieving that enviable position didn’t require any kind of black magic – I’ve beaten the “big dogs” of search engine positioning at their own game, by relying on three simple principles.

Principle 1: Keyword Selection

You may not feel like going head to head with top SEO experts, just to test your mettle… and if you do, you want to make sure that the keywords you select as the battleground are worth fighting for. Good keyword selection revolves around three key variables: popularity, targeting, and competition.

Ideal keywords have “enough” traffic to meet your needs, but not so much competition that you’ll face a long battle to reach the top. In planning a website, I look for keywords that can deliver at least 100-200 visitors per day, without so much competition that it’s not worth my time.

An example of poor keyword selection would be focusing on a term like “real estate.” A smart business owner would instead focus on the more targeted “Douglas County real estate” and other localized, specific terms that bring in a more targeted group of prospective customers.

Principle 2: Relevant Content

Search engines like websites that have a lot of relevant content, with individual pages that are optimized for a small set of keywords. There’s really no getting around this fact, so the smart business owner will instead take advantage of it.

I know lot of experts would have you invest your time in creating “doorway pages” for the sole consumption of the search engines. While this strategy might work sometimes, these pages don’t really give the visitor any reason to explore the rest of your site… and it’s unnecessary.

If you want to build up your site’s traffic, and turn those visitors into customers, you have to give them something useful. Instead of spending hours making useless doorway pages, spend the time writing (or locating) meaningful content that will make your site into an attractive destination for your visitors.

Here’s a little secret: good content improves your DirectHit scores, because visitors spend more time on your site. This in turn improves your ranking on the MSN and Hotbot engines.

Principle 3: Link Popularity

I use the general term “link popularity” here, but it’s really a pretty complex subject. Link popularity, or the number of other pages that link to your site, is at best a deceptive measurement. Links from more popular sites will count more than links from someone’s personal page.

All of the major search engines consider the incoming links to your site when determining your ranking for a given search term. In addition to simply counting links, they also look at the context: whether the page that links to you has your keywords on it, and what keywords are used in the text of the link.

A good link popularity strategy doesn’t stop there – incoming links are only meaningful if the search engines can find them. This means that you must fully understand how search engines find and index pages, so that you can position your links, and support your links partners, so that your links get indexed.

A Solid Foundation

By applying these three principles to your search engine strategy, you’ll build a solid foundation for your SEO efforts. You need not waste your time on invisible text, hidden links, or any other wasteful and dangerous tactics you may have heard about. These three principles, and a little bit of knowledge, are all you need to make your site rise to the top.

I wish you success…

Dan Thies is a well-known writer and teacher on search engine marketing. He offers consulting, training, and coaching for webmasters, business owners, SEO/SEM consultants, and other marketing professionals through his company, SEO Research Labs. His next online class will be a link building clinic beginning March 22